Samo Salamon: Samo Salamon Trio feat. Michel Godard & Roberto Dani: Live!

Matt Marshall By

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Samo Salamon Trio feat. Michel Godard & Roberto Dani
Samo Records

The tuba has experienced something of a resurgence as a featured jazz instrument in the last couple of years. Far from its New Orleans' roots, where the twizzled piece of metal mainly thumped its beats in the background, folks like Dave Douglas, Donny McCaslin, Bobby Bradford and John Ellis have moved the tuba (or sousaphone) to the frontlines, recognizing its ability—in the right hands—to solo as strongly as any of its brass brethren, yet with the added oomph of a heavyweight body punch.

Eclectic Slovenian guitarist Samo Salamon first tangled with the parade beast (on record, leastways) on 2007's Fall Memories (Splasc(h) Records). On Live! he brings back to the recording stage the one he calls "probably the best tuba player in the world" in the person of Michel Godard, who also plays a pretty mean electric bass. Also back from the Memories outing is Italian drummer Roberto Dani. Captured live at Café Stockwerk in Graz, Austria in March 2009, during the trio's tour of Europe, this record is far more explosive than its immediate predecessor, Salamon's subdued parlor meditation Mamasaal feat. Mark Turner (Dometra, 2008). Here, Godard sets a heavy, thumping groove, whether working the valves or the strings, that on tracks like the tuba-fed "Catch the Train" and "Miss Sarcasm" lumbers its way into a foot-stompin' rockabilly chug. And on "Train," "My Rain" and "Fall Memories," Godard twists and blows loose enough biting, squawking solo passages to make Anthony Braxton proud (if not even a little envious), going so far as to feature tuba-altered breaths, cutting in like panic-induced gasps on "Memories."

Salamon's playing is likewise aggressive. When not filling the canvas with light, ringing tones, the guitarist is charging to the fore with a varied attack of intricately laid single-noted runs, blazing metal and pedal-enhanced chordal passages and repeating blips of sound that delineate the edges of his work. His palette is much richer than on Mamasaal, recorded in 2006; his ability to work the tools in his chest to fit the ideas in his head has noticeably increased. (Although not the best track here, "Happy Girl," condensed nearly to half the length of the Mamasaal version, illustrates this point perfectly: Salamon expertly fleshes out the titular character with shifting melodic and harmonic coloration missing from the rather straightforward lines of 2006.) Now there's the narrative whole, its improvised thread springing out not fully formed, but spinning confidently free from the artist's mind and finding—creating—itself in the live gasp of the bandstand air, not only discovering, uncovering, exploding the narrative points of tension, fear and joy, but feeding them with leading strings of character, place and time. The music here never dips into prolonged, static atmospherics.

Helping considerably with this is Dani. Favoring the metal wares in his set—cymbals, cowbells, the like—he breaks the air with a clatter and rolls gravel at his mates' feet. Yet his time and rhythmic feel are mighty enough to prevent the affair from ever crumbling into a mess. For all of Godard's tuba tricks and Salamon's shredding, the trio is still marching. And Dani ain't gonna let 'em get too far outta line. His solo on "Catch the Train" is a subtle, nuanced affair, heightened mostly by the falling away of the other instrumentation—Dani's drumming continues unabated in its role as flavorful percussive glue.

This is live performance at a high, invigorating and intelligent level. High enough to perhaps make it feasible for Salamon and his trio to jump the pond for a bit of stateside touring in 2010. Jazz festivals take note.

Tracks: Hebe; Catch the Train; Kei's Secret; My Rain; Miss Sarcasm; Girl With a Nicotine Kiss; Happy Girl; My Amusing Muse; Fall Memories; Spring Forest.

Personnel: Samo Salamon: guitar; Roberto Dani: drums; Michel Godard: tuba, electric bass.


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